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EDUCATION

Teaching business

Sweden will be one of the world's most attractive countries to invest in and Europe's most competitive economy. That's the grand vision of Leif Pagrotsky and Thomas Östros, which they presented at the launch of a new strategy for innovation. The strategy has been designed to encourage increased growth.

Compared to other countries, Sweden offers good conditions for enterprise and innovation, but the number of new businesses is nevertheless low. Business minister Pagrotsky believes the paradox is partly due to the attitude of Swedes towards enterprise: “We have a Lutheran attitude, which makes life difficult for us,” he told Tuesday’s SvD.

Swedish business leaders are apparently critical and negative. “When Swedish business leaders claim that running a company is hellish, the climate doesn’t get any better.”

The fifty page report entitled ‘Innovative Sweden – a strategy for growth by renewal’ embraces education, research and partnership between the public and private sectors. On a more positive note than his government colleague, education minister Östros was keen to point out the importance of Sweden’s highly rated education system.

“We’ll sharpen interest in maths and promote life-long learning. Technology and medicine will be prioritised. Our businesses need a highly educated work-force,” he enthused.

Let’s hope the wind isn’t completely knocked out of Östros’s sails by the letter which has no doubt by now landed on his desk from irate education officials in Eskilstuna. Monday’s SvD reported that the letter, which was originally published in the town’s local paper and was signed by the chairman of the education board and the head of the education department, complained that newly graduated teachers from Mälardalen college couldn’t teach pupils how to read and write.

Ove Johansson, an education official in Eskilstuna, commented: “It’s very poor when teachers are supposed to teach kids how to read and haven’t a clue how to go about it.”

Teachers and politicians all agree that the new staff from Mälardalen can’t teach children with literacy problems. Extra resources have to be used to make up for the teachers’ incompetence. They (that’s the new teachers, not the kids) will be receiving remedial classes in the teaching of literacy from experienced staff in the Autumn.

A more novel subject which could find itself on the Swedish curriculum in the future is IT security. The suggestion, which Thomas Östros and Leif Pagrotsky would both undoubtedly approve of, is made in a government report looking at the devastating effects of computer viruses.

In May, many organisations were infected by the so-called Sasser worm, which attacked computer networks using the Windows 2000 and Windows XP operating systems. Patient notes were affected throughout the health sector and Lund University Hospital had to divert patients to Malmö. Last week also saw a Dane become the first Scandinavian customer of an internet bank to have his account emptied by a hacker.

Anders Svärd has been investigating IT security in society for the government for two years and is expected to submit his report next May. He believes that IT security should be part of compulsory education.

“This is so new that few parents know what their children are up to. Young people know it’s wrong to steal in a shop, but don’t know how serious it is to hack into somebody else’s computer. More people must learn how to protect their computers. Everybody who has a computer and is online has an individual responsibility.”

ALMEDALEN 2022

Swedish PM pledges to ban profit making at free schools

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has pledged to stop companies withdrawing profits from schools, in what is likely to be one of the Social Democrats' main campaigning issues in the coming election campaign.

Swedish PM pledges to ban profit making at free schools

The proposal, one of three measures announced to “take back democratic control over the school system”, was launched on the first day of the Almedalen political festival on the island of Gotland.

On Sunday evening, Andersson is set to give the first big speech of the festival, with Ulf Kristersson, leader of the centre-right Moderate party, and Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar scheduled to make their speeches on Monday, and Sweden’s other party leaders taking slots on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  

“Schools in Sweden should focus on knowledge, not on the pursuit of profit,” Andersson said, as she made the pledge, stressing that her party aimed not only to ban withdrawing profits, but also “to make sure that all the possible loopholes are closed”. 

Free schools, she complained, siphon off billions of kronor in tax money every year at the same time as free schools increase divisions in society. 

Banning profits from schools is an obvious campaigning issue for the Social Democrats. The latest poll by Gothenburg University’s SOM Institute found that fully 67 percent of voters support such a ban.

The only issue is that the Centre Party, whose support the Social Democrats will need to form a government, is likely to block a future Social Democrat government from implementing it, something Andersson was willing to acknowledge.

“What I know is that there’s a very strong support for this among the Swedish people, but not in the Swedish parliament,” she said. 

The Social Democrats have campaigned on the issue in past elections, pledging to stoppa vinstjakten, or “stop the pursuit of profit in schools”, or, in the run-up to the 2018 election, only to see the policy blocked in the January Agreement the party did to win the support of the Centre Party and the Liberal party.  

On Sunday, Andersson would not give any details on whether companies listed on Swedish or international stockmarkets would be prevented from operating schools, saying she was leaving such details to an inquiry into reforming Sweden’s free school system the government launched on June 30th.  

In the press conference, Andersson criticised the inflated grades given out by free schools, which are dismissed by critics as glädjebetyg, literally “happy grades”.

“We end up having pupils who graduate with good marks who then realise that their school has let them down,” she said. 

At the press conference, Andersson also reiterated the Social Democrats call to ban the establishment of new religious free schools, and announced plans for a national schools choice system, stripping free schools of the ability to run their own queue systems. 

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